MIZUSHIMA, Japan - Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s hyperproductive Mizushima plant was the model for its NedCar joint-venture factory in Holland, which is owned jointly with Volvo Car Corp.
Several Mizushima managers have worked at NedCar, trying to bring it to Mizushima standards. These include Masaru Suzuki, deputy general manager of the Mizushima Motor Works' assembling production department, who spent three years at the Dutch plant.
NedCar, however, never has come close to Mizushima's productivity. One reason is that it has far fewer robots than the Japanese factory. Mizushima managers, though, blamed European labor practices for much of the discrepancy between the two plants.
Europe has too many holidays and too many restrictions that limit management's ability to mandate overtime, they said. The problem is not that the rules hold down total work hours but that they limit the plant's flexibility.
Moreover, in the Japanese managers' eyes, the labor laws encourage a casual attitude toward the job. As a result, workers at NedCar do not have the same commitment to work and do not come up with the steady stream of kaizen continuous-improvement suggestions that workers at Mizushima do.